ALGIERS, Algeria — Weary from years of kidnappings, the inhabitants of Algeria's rugged Kayblie mountains are finally turning against the al-Qaida fighters in their midst and helping security forces hunt them down. And that turnaround is giving Algeria its best chance yet to drive the terror network from its last Algerian stronghold.
While defeated in much of the rest of the country, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb remains active in the Kabylie, partly because the Berbers there, the region's original inhabitants before the arrival of the Arabs, have long been deeply hostile to the central government and refused to provide information on militant whereabouts or activity.
The situation began changing after a string of militant attacks over the summer, culminating in a brazen daylight assault against the police station, prompted Algeria to hold an emergency security meeting to devise a new strategy to take on the militants, said a high-ranking official privy to the meeting. A pillar of the counter-terror blueprint: exploiting frustrations over kidnappings to win the Berbers over to the government side, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The strategy appears to have worked in spectacular fashion.
It first bore fruit with the capture early last month of a military commander. Then came the biggest coup: the Oct. 14 slaying of Bekkai Boualem, also known as Khaled El Mig, the head of external relations for AQIM.